Métis/sage-ing Anti-Colonial Narratives of a Canadian Post-colony: Curriculum, Autobiography, and Place

Métis/sage-ing Anti-Colonial Narratives of a Canadian Post-colony: Curriculum, Autobiography, and Place

A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship at any level, inside or outside the school, reveals its fundamentally narrative character…Education is suffering from narration sickness. (Freire, 1970/1990, p. 71)

No one can live in a radically non-narratable world or survive a radically non-narratable life. (Butler, 2005, p. 59)

For CSSE Nicholas Ng-A-Fook, Cynthia Chambers, Dwayne Donald, and Erica Hasebe-Ludt have submitted the following panel presentation where they will work a/way autobiographically métis/sage-ing a narrative bridge for what Aoki (2005) calls the “tensioned textured spaces” of walking across and within the different topographies of a postcolony called Canada. Furthermore, the authors draw upon anti-colonial reading and writing pedagogies to dislocate connected understandings of narrating their lived experiences of walking across the hyphenated trans/national landscapes of autobiography, curriculum, and place. In turn, the authors will perform the aesthetic dynamics of métis/sage-ing the narrative character of their relocations within the vertical and horizontal topographies of Canadian Curriculum Studies.

Ghandi travelled over 200 miles across his homeland from Sabarmati Ashram to the shores of the Arabian Sea in Dandi, Gujarat to produce untaxed salt as an anti-colonial act of civil disobedience—challenging the invisible “banality” of British colonial rule (Ghandi, 1996). Ghandi walked across this narrative landscape—physical, geopolitical, architectural, institutional, historical, psychic, etc.—rereading and challenging the banality of European colonial inscriptions. The banality of colonial power, Mbembe (2001) writes, “does not simply refer to the way bureaucratic formalities or arbitrary rules, implicit or explicit, have been multiplied,” nor are they simply concerned with a colonial curriculum that has become routine (p. 102). Instead banality, its curriculum, refers to the colonial aesthetics of vulgarity located in “non-official” sites, but that remain in fact, “intrinsic to all systems of domination and to the means by which those systems are confirmed or deconstructed” (p. 102). Here in Canada, we are surrounded “by artefacts of the histories of colonialism, but these artefacts are rendered invisible, common sense, and a part of taken-for-granted discursive formations, that in some instances are quite literally set in concrete” (Stanley, 2009, p. 158). In turn, these historical discursive formations that inscribe themselves into the concrete narrative character of our Canadian landscapes work in the socio-cultural formations of what Mbembi (2001) calls the curricula of the “postcolony.”

The notion of “postcolony” identifies, Mbembe (2001) tells us, a given historical trajectory

…of societies recently emerging from the experience of colonization and violence which the colonial relationship involves. To be sure, the postcolony is chaotically pluralistic; it has nonetheless an internal coherence. It is a specific system of signs, a particular way of fabricating simulacra or re-forming stereotypes…The postcolony is characterized by a distinctive style of improvisation, by a tendency to excess and lack of proportion, as well as by distinctive ways identities are multiplied, transformed, and put into circulation. (p. 102)

Consequently re-settlers of the postcolony, as Stanley (2009) stresses, “remade the cultural landscape of the territory imposing their disciplinary practices and ways of knowing on the territory and its inhabitants, effectively steamrolling the systems and ways of cultural representation and the meanings already in place (p. 158). Therefore, drawing on Mbembe’s (2001) notion of postcolony, we seek to reread our connected understanding of the ways in which colonialism’s culture inscribes itself into the narrative character of the Canadian landscape and Canadian Curriculum Studies writ large.

We four curriculum scholars (Nicholas Ng-A-Fook, Dwayne Donald, Cynthia Chambers, Erica Hasebe-Ludt), come from different walks of life, are at different stages of our careers, and work at academic institutions located across the diversified narrative landscape of Canada. Some of us are first, second, and third generation immigrants to the different territories of this landscape we now call home. Whereas others were born here and can trace their genealogical narrative histories to the indigenous peoples who inhabited, migrated, and traded with other communities across this land. As such, we strategically walk across this narrative bridge, métis/sage-ing and lingering, intermingling our differing life experiences, deconstructing and braiding our autobiographical texts to generate anti-colonial stories of our migratory inhabitations of a Canadian landscape. “Carefully crafted autobiographical texts,” Hasebe-Ludt, Chambers, & Leggo, (2009) suggest, “open apertures for understanding and questioning the social conditions in which those experiences are embedded, and the particular languages, memories, stories, and places in which these experiences are located and created” (p. 35). Furthermore, at the opening of such apertures métis/sage-ing provides a place for the creative interplay of life writing texts, “a contact zone where dialogue among multiple and mixed socio-cultural, racial, (trans)national, and gendered groups can occur” (p. 35). During this discussion panel we will walk across physical and intellectual inter/disciplinary territories rereading the colonial narrative artefacts scared into the very material fabric of the landscape, as an aesthetic form of métis/sage-ing.

Moreover, such praxial space “where discourse includes action and where action is formed by discourse” provides a narrative praxis for connecting our understandings of the vertical and horizontal narrative dynamics of a Canadian topos (Hasebe-Ludt, Chambers, & Leggo, 2009, p. 37). What Chambers (1999) and Pinar (2007) call, the vertical and horizontal topographies of the particular places and regions we both live and work within. Here verticality is, Pinar (2007) explains, the historical and intellectual narrative topography of a discipline. Whereas horizontality, he suggests, refers to analyses of present circumstances, both in terms of internal intellectual trends as well as the external social and political milieus influencing the field of curriculum studies. Studying the verticality and horizontality of our inter/disciplinary narrative locations, as Pinar (2007) makes clear, affords us opportunities to understand a series of scholarly moves both outside and within what Chambers (1999, 2003) calls the topos of Canadian Curriculum Studies.

In order to interrogate our inhabitations of the diverse inter/disciplinary territories across the Canadian landscape, we strategically (re)read its respective intellectual, physical, and cultural topographies from what Hingangaroa Smith (2000) calls a proactive deconstructive anti-colonial positioning that in turn challenges interpretations of the past and present formations of (neo)colonization. “I do not think for an instant,” Hingangaroa Smith (2000) stresses, “that we are in a postcolonial world” (p. 215). Or, that we have seen the last of (neo)colonial formations. “Many of these new formations,” as Hingangaroa Smith (2000) reminds us, “are insidious, and many of them have yet to be fully exposed” (p. 215). Nonetheless, through our métis/sage-ing of such re-readings, we would like to go beyond binary categories for deconstructing colonizer/colonized, resistance/passivity, hegemony/counter-hegemony, for example (Mbembe, 2001).

Instead, we would like to work autobiographically with the hyphen and finesse the fallibility of the historical and emergent narrative relations between anti (-) colonial, and sage (-) ing the postcolony (Butler & Spivak, 2007). Furthermore, our narrative navigations and assemblages will play with what Wah (2000) calls the contradictions, paradoxes, and theoretical assumptions active at the edges of the hyphen. “This constant pressure that the hyphen brings to bear against the master narratives of duality, multiculturalism, and apartheid,” Wah (2000) tells us, “creates a volatile space that is inhabited by a wide range of voices” (p. 74). Here métis/sage-ing involves the political play with the “poetics of the “trans,” methods of translation, transference, transposition, or poetics that speaks of the awareness and use of any means of occupying” the narrative locations of autobiography, curriculum, and place (p. 90). At the crossroads of these narrative locations, we will perform the aesthetic dynamics of métis/sage-ing the narrative character of our hyphenated relocations within the vertical and horizontal topographies of Canadian Curriculum Studies.


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